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December 9, 2008

Top Eleven Picks of 2008

That any book was reviewed here during this past year means that I liked it enough to recommend it to you, though my very favourites are listed here. And of that crop, I’ve narrowed to eleven for the sake of conciseness. My top eleven of 2008 as follows:

  • When Will There Be Good News? by Kate Atkinson: “If this was the first book by Atkinson you’d ever encountered, you’d forget genre and just fall in love with it. You would fall in love with her.”
  • American Wife by Curtis Sittenfeld: “…this a marvelous achievement of Sittenfeld’s work, that she makes love for a George Bush-y character seem plausible. Not that it’s all sentimental, and throughout the book Alice herself is at times downright unsympathetic, but these aren’t caricatures, or even ‘characters’; they’re people and they’re real.”
  • The Flying Troutmans by Miriam Toews: “…the book is a joy to read, however disturbing and awful. The Flying Troutmans is touching but without compromise, and only a really great writer could do that.”
  • The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer: “That this delightful book was brought to me, full of all the things I like the best– an epistolary novel, begun on the basis of a used book’s passage from one reader to another, full of wonderful literary references, even a bookish mystery of sorts, plus a reference to the joys of peering in windows, and a teapot that’s used as a weapon.”
  • Girl Meets Boy by Ali Smith: “But Smith’s language, of course, is always her most marvelous trick. Amidst all the stuff, rendering her thesis quite simple: that in a world where things are changeable, things can change. Innumerable doors swinging open upon this promise, that progress is a way forward after all.”
  • Novel About My Wife by Emily Perkins: “Perkins has created a puzzle of a puzzle. I read this book in anticipation of the ending the first time, and then the second time I pored over the text in search of clues. But both times I was entirely caught up in both this extraordinary story and its more ordinary concerns.”
  • The Girl in Saskatoon by Sharon Butala: “Thriller, novel, historical record, reminiscence, elegy, etc., all contained within one mesmerizingly readable package.”
  • The Letter Opener by Kyo Maclear: “…this is rumination after all. The Letter Opener is primarily the story of Naiko’s own self-discovery, as she realizes her constructions of others through their objects tells more about her own self than anybody else’s. And this story is fascinatingly beautiful, a satisfying read.”
  • Nikolski by Nicolas Dickner, translated from French by Lazer Lederhendler: “‘Nothing is perfect,’ so goes the next line in the story, but I really might put forth that Nikolski is… Dickner has married cleverness with depth, sustaining his ideas with a tireless deftness.”
  • Arlington Park by Rachel Cusk: “So I was prepared for something Woolfian then, which in my experience has always required a different kind of reading. One in which you let the prose lead you where it may, but paying utmost attention. It’s a significant cerebral investment, and necessitates a period of adjustment upon returning to the real world once again.”
  • The Monsters of Templeton by Lauren Groff: “With a spirit threatening to fade when the monster dies, when all seems bleakest, but there is so much hope, and such a gorgeous ending: ‘and it is good.’ I finished reading this last night near 1am, and couldn’t sleep for a long time, just thinking about it, and smiling.”

4 thoughts on “Top Eleven Picks of 2008”

  1. metro mama says:

    Great list! Guernsey and When Will There Be Good News are on my top 10 too.

  2. Fred says:

    “American Wife” is brilliant. I wonder if laura bush has read it? Can you imagine reading such an artfully observed book based on your own life? Mind-blowing.

  3. Kerry says:

    Fred: It would be too creepy. And close to home. But yes, what an idea to ponder! Have you ever read her book “The Man of My Dreams”? I was turned off by Prep so didn’t, but this book makes me wonder…

    MM: They’re *so* good.It was a great bookish year (and Kate Atkinson owns my heart).

  4. alyssa says:

    I’ve read six of your top eleven (and am impatiently waiting for my turn with the library’s American Wife) but the only one that would make my best-of list is Monsters of Templeton, which was so spunky and well-crafted.

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